I've had the Panasonic LX100 for more than 6 months now and I am ready to put my thoughts in writing, here's my Panasonic LX100 review.
Panasonic essentially took their already great Panasonic LX series and simply made the sensor bigger and put it on steroids. It's essentially a micro-four thirds-ish camera with a killer fast zoom that starts at 1.7 at the 24mm and ends at 2.8 at the 75mm end.
Before starting, let me first state 2 things. First, I don't like the micro fours thirds format. There, i said it. I had the original PEN, the original OMD and I swore off them afterwards. Nothing personal, I just don't like the format. But after being stunned of how great the Panasonic LF1 was, I decided to give the LX100 a try.
Second I used to be anti-zoom, I used to be a passionate defender of prime lenses, but with that zoom range basically removing the need to carry another lens, I'm not too zealous about my position as a prime shooter anymore. Fast zooms are great, the LX100 grew on me.
I got the LX100 because in a sense, I needed to. I was leaving for Korea and could not take all of my cameras with me. I decided to simplify and only get one camera that would work for most situations and the LX100 seemed to fit the bill well.
Panasonic LX100 review
The best camera package? Seriously? …….Let's start by first clearing up some confusion, I am not saying that this is the best camera ever, but definitely one of the best camera packages ever when factoring in everything like price, size, weight, versatility, video, etc. It ends up being one of the best deals in photography.
For sure there's cameras and lenses out there that can outperform this camera in individual aspects, but when you put everything in balance, I truly believe this camera is nothing short of a steal. More on that later.
Camera Handling and ergonomics
The camera takes after the good old rangefinders with the nice shutter speed dial on top and a front aperture dial. For sure they took a cue from Fuji, and let me say that both handle VERY differently. Something like my Fuji X100s feels bulkier and premium, the LX100 looks sleek, feels well built but does not feel premium.
It's a hard feeling to describe, my point is, don't think the LX100 is just a Fuji with a zoom range. They both handle and feel differently, one handed operation is easier with the LX100 for example.
The camera isn't too bulky, it will fit in a small bag. It wins against the Fuji in that department as it is smaller and easier to transport. . The lens actually allows for screw on stuff like filters and hoods. To my surprise the Voigtlander 35mm's hood fits perfectly although it obscures the lens when completely zoomed out. It's better to get the auto-extending cap for it.
The grip is very nice and there is no need for anything like an extra grip like it's younger brother the Panasonic LF1. The shutter is pretty silent and makes for a stealthy camera.
The only issue with this camera is the non integrated flash, it's a little flash cube that is separate. That's ok in my opinion, if you need flash, it's better get a big one!
The lens, oh the lens!
The 4/3ish sensor coupled with a 24-75 2.8 sensor is the primary reason I call this camera a steal. You can get an APSC or even a Fullframe sensor with a similar lens, it would surely outclass it. But the lens alone like a canon 24-70 2.8 is $1799…..for the lens ONLY!
So this camera's entry price is worth it for the focal length and speed alone! Granted it doesn't Bokeh as well as a larger camera but it's much more portable.
The lens is sharp and fast. And while it cannot be removed, you'd be hard press to find something this camera can't do. The highly versatile lens allows for everything from landscapes to portraits. When I had to move and cutting down gear, this was the only camera that had everything built in, no need for an extra lens or video camera (more below).
As much as I was an ardent defender of prime lenses, the biggest issue I faced was the fact that you needed a separate lens for each focal length. It's really bothersome to have to worry about a lens or two in the bag, plus you need time to change them. When you pick up the LX100, you know you are ready for whatever comes your way in terms of images.
Image quality is impressive, as most modern cameras are, so I won't dwell on it…..but I do want to talk about it a little bit. Many times the shots I have from it are indistinguishable to an APSC sensor camera, but also sometimes the images have a certain “look” to them, usually when it starts going up in the ISO department. I understand that this is a purely subjective comment.
The other thing I wanted to mention is not really about the image quality but about the expected image rendering. The lens is killer, but many times I expect APSC sensor sized bokeh and it's simply not there. I know how great the Bokeh is at 75mm 2.8 on an APSC, so it is slightly underwhelming to see the modest bokeh of the LX100. Lastly let's see how the camera handles raw editing. Let's start with outside manipulation, out in the sun:
There's a lot of editing in this quick shot. Everything from bumping the shadows up, changing the white balance on the bottom, etc. Everything works fine. Now, for very dark areas, you kind of have to be careful, the quality starts breaking down when you try to recover your shadows:
All I did there is try to recover the highlights. At the end of the day, great camera or not, it's still an mu43ish and can't be pushed too much. ISO1600 is as far as I would go with it.
These are commonplace now, the LX100 has a nice viewfinder, it's bright and nice, On the right of the viewfinder is the viewfinder button and wifi button. While you can add a thumbrest, it will block these non crucial buttons.
While not a 1:1 macro, the lens focuses really close and does great closeups. The only thing is, you need to hit a a switch on the side to turn on the macro mode. The macro mode is pretty much only for the wide angle end, as soon as you start zooming in, it will lose it's macro powers.
Did I say this camera was the best package? Yup this has built in time lapse function, no need for remotes or anything, just bring your tripod and have a lot of patience and some pretty nice time-lapses can be yours.
Again, something that is more and more commonplace as not to be relevant, the LX100 has wifi and has a great app that goes with it. Can't transfer raw files but has NFC for snappy connection. Beats having a cable for triggering remotely!
Did I say this was the best package? You know how most cameras are very good still cameras and then some engineer says “Oh we should have video!” and simply puts it as an afterthought?
That is NOT the case for this camera. As for the LX100, only 2 words: 4k + stabilization. Good grief 4 friggin' K in an already fine still camera? 4K on at 24-75mm 1.7-2.8 lens????? The videos that come out of this are simply stated STUNNING. But that's not the amazingness (is that even a word?) of it, the stabilization is just top notch.
Look I'm not a video pro (only a photo pro 😉 ) all I know is, I spent $500 in a Steadicam merlin that I could never figure out and this beats it. Long story short, it looks like the camera is floating in the air when handholding it. Plus there is always post processing stabilization to stabilize your footage even further.
The video capabilities simply eliminates the need for a separate video camera for most people, even for those who need a bit more, like youtubers.
What's great too is that you can turn your smart-phone into a screen so that you can record and still look at yourself to check if everything is ok. While I haven't gotten to it yet I am planning to make Youtube vids and also sell stock footage with it!
I used this camera a lot, for many situations, here's my thoughts on each:
This is a great Street camera, small and stealthy. For some reason there is no focus scale on this like the LF1. The screen doesn't flip but there is a EV dial for quick change if you use something like Aperture priority. Click here if you like street photography.
I enjoy landscapes as much as the other guy, and the 24mm can hold it's own pretty well.
The fact that this is a small camera but with such a versatile lens and can do video makes this a very strong travel camera. Portraits, landscapes, everything is covered with the LX100 in your travels. It allowed me to cut down all the gear and simply do not need to bring anything else while traveling.
I did some paid jobs with this camera no problem, wonderful output for food images and more. The Jury is up to you for other types of jobs like weddings.
The only thing to worry about is the low light capacity of the camera, due to sensor size it can't go too high in terms of ISO. If the area is super dark, don't expect magic if you try to recover your blacks.
I did food stuff with it:
And other random pro stuff like:
The best camera for…..
I always get emails asking me for camera recommendations, and while I believe the best camera does not exist, I do believe that this is the best camera for a certain group of people. The first group is the Minimalists….If you just want one camera, ONE CAMERA, and you don't want to deal with lenses but still want something that is great in any situation, this might just well be it. There is very little this camera can't do if you don't go to very specialized fields.
The second group is travelers who want something light, the third group is those who want to get into photography and the last group is shooters who already have a main camera but feel they need the zoom range.
Where it falls short
However a great camera it is, it's biggest strength (the versatility) might also be it's downfall for certain folks. Of course you can get killer portraits but it doesn't Bokeh as well as a APSC with a 1.4 can…..it can do landscapes well but can't go as wide as a 15mm…it can do telephoto but it's a short one. In essence, the camera does most things right, but there might be things that are too far beyond it's reach.
So let's get this straight: Incredibly versatile zoom lens, large sensor, 4k, stabilisation, timelapse & more in one small package? Now you understand why I believe this is one of the best photography packages so far! It's not only great for photographers but also for video enthusiasts!
I've been using it for months now and it held itself against everything I have thrown it's way from food shots to street. If you are looking for one camera for most of your needs, this baby will probably fit the bill.
Panasonic LX100 Review update
Panasonic released the LX100 II that is an upgraded model in every way. They simply took what was great about the previous model and upped the ante with more megapixels, and much better video functions.
Where to get it: Check on Amazon
Your camera is only as good as you are…
The Panny is a great camera that has my highest recommendation, but your camera is only as good as you are, so if you want to make better images with it, check out my street photography workshop online and book.